Anzac Day 2014 Address by Ambassador Bill Tweddell
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Libingan ng mga Bayani
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City
25 April 2014
Undersecretary of Civil, Veterans and Reserve Affairs Eduardo Batac;
Senior members of the Government and Armed Forces of the Philippines;
Excellencies and other colleagues from the diplomatic and attaché corps;
Ladies and gentlemen,
Almost one hundred years ago, on 28 June 1914, the assassination of the heir to the Austrian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, set about a chain reaction that was to plunge the world into turmoil for the four years of what became known as the Great War, or World War One.
By August 1914, to safeguard Belgium’s neutrality against Germany, Britain had declared war on Germany.
For the first time in their short history, by virtue of their close historical ties with Britain, Australia and New Zealand found themselves also at war.
The Philippines was a US colony at the time, and expressions of Filipino loyalty included volunteering to serve in the US Army and the Red Cross. When the US War Department required 15,000 volunteers, the Philippines produced 25,000.
Japan, an ally of the Entente Powers, also played an important role by securing the sea lanes in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans against the German Kaiserliche Marine.
Exactly 99 years ago today some 30,000 Australian and New Zealand troops, ‘the ANZACs’ were given the near impossible task of securing the Gallipoli Peninsula against a formidable Turkish opponent.
At 3.30 am their battleships and attendant transports anchored in total darkness some 3500 yards off the Gallipoli coast. In the dark of night, troops were loaded onto smaller boats which were then towed toward the coast by steamers. At 4 am the boats cast off their tows and were rowed silently ashore.
Australia’s young soldiers went ashore to secure the beachhead first and, later that morning, the New Zealanders landed to support their Australian comrades. The Australians had already suffered terrible casualties. The New Zealand soldiers quickly joined the desperate battle to capture and defend the heights around what was to become known as ANZAC Cove.
Some troops managed to advance inland, but the terrain forced them into small groups that quickly lost contact with each other. Soldiers were separated from their units, and units separated from their commanders. It is not difficult to imagine how chaotic it must have been on that first morning.
By mid-morning, Turkish troops mounted a vigorous counter-attack and most of the early ANZAC gains were lost. Thus began an arduous eight-month campaign that failed to achieve any of its objectives.
According to British military historian Peter Hart, the Allied campaign was plagued by ill-defined goals, poor planning, insufficient artillery, inaccurate maps and intelligence, overconfidence, inadequate equipment and logistics, and tactical deficiencies at all levels. Gallipoli was to become a graveyard for thousands of our best, irreplaceable young men.
We commemorate today, therefore, not a military triumph - but the more humbling triumph of human valour. The courage and endurance of those who did their duty at Gallipoli remain a vivid memory and a source of pride for every Australian and New Zealander.
Today, we remember too, the sacrifices made at Gallipoli by British, French and Indian troops. We pay tribute as well to the young Turks who suffered appalling losses while so bravely defending their homeland.
It was the then Lieutenant Colonel Mustafa Kemal who commanded the Turkish Forces that drove the allied Forces from Gallipoli in December 1915.
And it was Mustafa Kemal, later Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, whose words of comfort to the grieving parents of our fallen soldiers remind us of the power and grace of reconciliation.
Gallipoli was a battle that broke Australian and New Zealand hearts. It was also the battle which caused us to pause and consider our respective identities. Before Gallipoli, we were colonials; at Gallipoli, we measured ourselves alongside - and against - the best, and found no cause for shame. In many respects it was our coming of age.
In important respects, Australia and New Zealand attained nationhood at Gallipoli. The symbolism associated with the 25th of April 1915 will forever be a part of our national identities.
Anzac Day commemorations commenced as a time to remember those who fought and died in the First World War. But Anzac Day has long been recognised as a time to remember our sons and daughters who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in all wars and peacekeeping operations.
The graves of many are unknown, on mountain tops and jungles, and beneath the sea. They lie in unknown places on every continent and in every ocean. But they are not forgotten.
The ANZAC spirit that originated at Gallipoli remains a real and powerful force to this day. Australians and New Zealanders share the knowledge that in times of crisis, we will act together to defend freedom, shared values and our common interests.
Today, as well as commemorating all Australians and New Zealanders who have fought, lost their lives or have been wounded in service of their country, we also acknowledge our countrymen and women who continue to serve our countries proudly around the world.
The close ties that bind Australia and New Zealand go well beyond shared pride in our past military sacrifices and shared values. I know of no two nations’ people who are closer.
Our two Defence Forces also play their part in humanitarian relief and reconstruction when communities in our Asia Pacific region are struck by natural disasters.
Both our countries were enormously proud to lend support to the recovery of the Philippines after Super Typhoon Yolanda. Just as we were when we supported the Liberation of the Philippines 69 years earlier.
We are both true friends of the Philippines, in good times and in bad.
Regardless of our country of origin, it is the duty of us all to ensure that those who lose their life, or are wounded in service to their country, do not do so in vain.
In doing so, we should remind ourselves of the inscription seen on war memorials around the world: “When you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow, we gave our today.”
We can all take lessons from the wars in which our nations have fought - on Anzac Day, for Australians and New Zealanders, the sacrifice of those who have so bravely gone before, and those who continue to serve, is foremost in our minds.
Lest we forget.